Do you ever feel short-changed over the price of your coffee? We’ve become so accustomed to the £2-something coffee that we rarely question the fact that a burnt-roast sugar-fuelled latte from Starbucks costs the same as an artisan pour-over made using carefully-selected beans, lightly roasted to an exacting degree in a small roastery in Clerkenwell. We have no problem with the stratification of prices linked to quality in other goods – be it food, wine or products – so why do we not have similar attitudes to coffee? So asks Tim Williams, Director of Operations for Workshop Coffee.
After several years in the coffee industry, dedicated to the craft of coffee, Tim is an expert in the field. He resists the common elitist view that it’s too complicated for most of us to grasp and wants to let coffee aficionados ‘get backstage and see what’s happening – there are no big secrets to good coffee’. That’s not to say it comes easy, but with the time, effort, money and relentless persistence involved in improving every detail that takes the bean to the cup, you end up with a very good cup of Joe indeed.
The coffee bean is actually the seed from the fruit of the coffee cherry tree – which tends to grow at high altitude, often on the side of volcanoes, in equatorial countries. There will typically be 20-40 coffee cherries on each branch, but since they all ripen at different times, they have to be picked by hand. Each fruit produces two seeds – more commonly known as coffee beans.
The process continues with drying the fruit and extracting the seeds, which are then themselves dried for 8-12 weeks. In the case of Workshop and other London coffee roasteries, they’re then shipped to the UK to be roasted in small batches of 500g-12kg for around 12 minutes to an exacting recipe. The beans then sit for four days until they are finally ground and made into your coffee. The yield from 500 coffee cherries produces enough coffee for one espresso. It’s a miracle coffee doesn’t cost £50 a pop.
Workshop coffee (formerly St. ALi’s) roast all of their beans on-site in Clerkenwell in the Probat roaster that sits sleekly at the back of the coffee shop. Tim affirms that the whole team are involved ‘not just because it’s something we enjoy, but also because it’s a product we care about a lot’. They want to show coffee growers that there’s a monetary value attached to quality, to encourage the next generation to continue the plantation and to provide a sustainable business.
In the next couple of months, Tim is launching a series of workshops that share his in-depth knowledge of the process from start to finish. The three-hour Sourcing and Roasting workshop will cost £75 and is perfect for any aspiring coffee roasters out there – or indeed any enthusiasts who want to understand just how much goes into their daily cup.
Workshop Coffee Co.
27 Clerkenwell Rd
Tel: 0207 253 5754